How to Actually Decide if Debt Consolidation is Right For You (and When It Isn’t)

Sometimes when you’re swimming in debt, taking control of your circumstances once and for all seems like an unbearable burden.

You have most likely considered a few different paths you could take to pay off your debt, but decision paralysis is a real thing, my friends. Just remember, you’re not alone.

Credit card debt is America is growing at near lightening speed. In fact, the average American household carries over $15,700 in credit card debt. With average interest rates being nearly 14%, American families are paying more than $2,000 of interest if they choose to only make the minimum monthly payment.

That’s crazy!

It probably won’t surprise you then that debt consolidation is a hot topic among those working to get out of debt and achieve financial freedom.

Not only can a debt consolidation loan help achieve this goal, but it already has for many thousands of Americans living with debt.

But that still doesn’t make it the right choice for everyone.

In case you’re unfamiliar or foggy brained on what it means, debt consolidation is essentially the process of gathering up all of your eligible debt, combining them into one lump sum, and taking out a new loan with new terms and conditions to create a single monthly payment. Once the process is in motion, you make a single monthly payment and the firm you are working with distributes the funds to the appropriate debtor until the debt is completely paid off.

So, what’s the catch?

This is where the “not right for everyone” advice comes in.

While combining debt into one payment may be a promising option, it’s good to understand what you’re getting yourself into before diving straight in.

To Consolidate or Not Consolidate, That is the Question

First, it’s critical to understand which debts can be combined and which cannot.

Debt generally falls into one of two categories: Unsecured debt and secured debt.

Unsecured debt is debt that has no underlying asset backing it up, like credit card debt, medical bills, utility bills, and other types of loans or credit you may have.

Secured debt is debt that is backed by an asset, meaning if you fail to make payments, your creditors have the legal ability to take away the asset. Examples of secured debt are things like auto loans and mortgages.

The vast majority of debt consolidation companies only work with clients who have unsecured debt, so if you are hoping to make this work with a car loan or mortgage payments, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Benefits Anyone Can Appreciate

When researching debt consolidation, it’s easy to find all the black and white reasons why you should or shouldn’t sign-up with a consolidation firm, but here are few areas where we can all meet middle ground about whether it’s good or not.

Payments become easier. Instead of worrying about meeting due dates on multiple credit cards and various other debts, you will only need to worry about making one payment, on time, each month.

Lower interest rates. If you’re able to secure a consolidation loan with a lower APR than you are currently paying against, the savings in interest could potentially take years off of your debt repayment, which is huge!

Improved credit score. Debt consolidation won’t do your credit score any favors in the short term, but once debts are paid off, many people see a significant improvement on their credit scores in a relatively short time. As you know, this is incredibly important when bouncing back from a serious amount of debt.

Still sound good?

Let’s move on to discussing the not so glamorous side of consolidation: The risks.

Risks to Consider

As you have probably guessed, there are risks involved when it comes to choosing and working with a firm for help with your debt. After all, debt is big business. But being aware of the risks involved is key to avoiding a bad situation.

Before signing up with a firm, consider how you got into your current situation in the first place. Was there a major life event that essentially forced you into a large amount of debt, or maybe you just aren’t sure how to create and stick to a budget. Whatever the reason is, try to identify it.

Second, once your debt is paid off and you can spend freely again, how confident are you that you won’t end up in the same situation later down the road. Many people swear they will never fall back into an overwhelming amount of debt, but without the knowledge and discipline to spend and save wisely, it can happen easier than you might realize.

The Bottom Line

Consolidation can be a great tool to systematically pull yourself out of debt, but as with most things in life, there are risks and rewards to consider. If you are ready to commit to the process and ask for assistance when you need it – both before and after debt – it may help you get out of debt sooner than you realize.

Author’s Bio:

christineChristine Yaged is a co-founding partner and Chief Product Officer of FinanceBuzz. Christine launches and scales brands. She is passionate about technology, digital marketing, and people.